FLORIDA, September 2, 2012 — It is common knowledge that our country is in the midst of sweeping change.
Politically, economically, socially, religiously, and demographically, the American landscape is transforming before our very eyes. In some ways, this is an excellent thing, while in others, strife has been the result. As we each have our own opinions about any given issue, it is ultimately left with every one of us to determine which changes are beneficial, and which ones are not.
Multiculturalism is a lightning rod without parallel. Those who do not seek assimilation to traditionally American norms and standards see it as a wonderful development. For those of us who see the value in cultural cohesion, however, it is a tremendous problem.
Multiculturalism has come to be regarded as a leftist idea during recent years. According to conventional wisdom, implacable opposition to it comes from the right. Might there be pro-labor Democrats who desire a unified country, and libertarian businesspersons who could care less about such a thing?
Of course. Don’t expect the punditocracy to pick up on that, though.
Richard Lamm brings a much needed sense of reality to the situation. The former three-term Governor of Colorado became famous long ago for his environmental activism, as well as support of abortion rights and smart development strategies. Over the last several years, however, his opinions concerning multiculturalism and American immigration policy have brought him back into the spotlight.
“This is not an issue of immigrants, but of immigration,” Lamm explains to me about the environment and public education. “What possible public policy advantage would there be to an America of 400 million? Do we lack for people? Do we have too much open space, parkland and recreation? What will 400 million Americans mean to our environment? Do we need more people for National Security? Are our schools unpopulated? Do we not have enough diversity? Will we live better lives if Phoenix and Denver double in size? Do you want a Colorado of 12 million people? These questions seem to answer themselves.”
Those who have lost their jobs due to illegal immigration are rarely heard from in the media. Is this because they do not feel like sharing their stories, or could it be that few are listening to them?
“I saw how employers were using illegal immigration for cheap labor and in some cases firing Americans so they could hire illegals who they could pay less and work harder,” Lamm recalls.
“I saw the incredible flow of illegal aliens who crowded out American workers in construction, packing plants, the service industry, etc, many of whom were paid ‘off-books’ so we got no state income taxes from them. Saw how this was not ‘cheap’ labor except to the employer. Illegal immigration went from being single men who came and picked our crops and went home, to whole families who came and stayed, imposing incredible costs on our taxpayers. The medical costs and education costs were substantial as the employers externalized these expenses to the taxpayers. “
Yet, some believe that our country needs mass immigration now more than ever. They say that such a thing will reinvigorate the economy. What is Lamm’s opinion on this view?
“It’s not 1900 anymore! We are no longer an empty continent looking for people to open the land,” he observes. “We have 23 million Americans looking for work! Have we repealed the laws of Supply and Demand? Employers love cheap labor, but a country should train its own people. Immigration has given us a second underclass in the West, (the Hispanics) and 50 percent of their children don’t finish high school. How do we build a competitive 21st Century economy when our fastest growing demographic fails to graduate 50 percent of their kids from high school?”
Keeping all of this in mind, it is no surprise that illegal immigration is one of the foremost hot-button issues in American politics. Standing against it is another stereotype of the right. History, however, reveals immigration control to be anything but right-wing.
Lamm notes that the “United States has had two National Commissions looking at the Immigration question, both headed by liberals. Father Hesberg in the 1980s and Congresswoman Barbara Jordan in the 1990s. Both great liberals. Both Commissions recommended that America cut its legal immigration in half, put the emphasis on “skilled immigrants,” and both found that there was no moral or legal reason to tolerate illegal immigration.
“A Nation has its first obligation to its own workers and its own poor. I had a group of Hispanic Americans come into my office in 1976 who worked in a Denver packing plant. They had just been fired by heir employer who turned around and hired illegal aliens for a lot less money. That had a big impact on me.”
Stories like this play on our emotions, but they should get us thinking about how our economy really works. On the right, there are those who preach the gospel of free trade. While that sort of thing might sound fantastic in theory, the sort of market atmosphere which it fosters eventually brings about some terrible practices.
This is not to say that viable solutions are being offered on the left, however.
“Mass immigration is hurting our own poor and liberals have to get their heads out of their butts and recognize that we are no longer an empty continent with empty land, but a cash/wage economy which needs capital, not labor, to create jobs,” Lamm highlights.
The objective truth about America’s current immigration policy is on display for all to see. Multiculturalism has led to intense social, ethnic and religious conflict. The appropriate question, then, is whether or not the American people will pressure their public servants to deal with these problems accordingly.
On the right, it would mean setting aside age-old vendettas against reproductive rights, gay rights, and fair trade. On the left, it would mean toning down rhetoric about those first two issues, and resisting the lure of extreme globalization. Are both sides willing to look forward rather than waste time over today’s petty partisan debacles?
That remains to be seen, but if the recent past is a guide, change won’t come any time soon.
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